Fresno County Sheriff wants new jail but supervisors balk

September 10, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
With more than three thousand inmates Fresno County's jail remains overcrowded with 30 to 50 inmates being released early every day.

Part of the problem is the state's realignment program which keeps some inmates in county jails, instead of prison. To offset that the state is offering hundreds of millions of dollars in grants, under a measure called AB 1022 to let counties build more jails or rehab facilities. It's money Sheriff Margaret Mims wants the Board of Supervisors to ask for.

"I do want them to apply for state funding to build a new jail facility to replace our old South Annex Jail," said Sheriff Margaret Mims.

The Sheriff wants the Supervisors to apply for a state grant of up to $80-million dollars, she would use some of the money to tear down the old wing of the jail and replace it with a new building and make other improvements.

But some board members are leery because of the strings attached.

Supervisor Debbie Poochigian said: "We probably could afford to build the building but I don't think we can afford to staff the building over the next 30 years."

Supervisor Andreas Borgeas added, "As it stands, 1022 sounds like a gift we may not be able to afford to take."

Mims says the new building would include mental health and medical treatment facilities. Board members found the pitch confusing, and asked Mims to come back next week with a clearer picture, even though time to apply for the grant is running out.

"If we need a new facility anyway, this kind of opportunity doesn't come along very often." Mims said.

Mims will come back, but a consultant working on the county's grant warned the board other counties are competing for the funds, and even a one week delay could jeopardize Fresno County's chance to get the money.


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